20 September 2021
After our 2021 She Leads Conference, we asked a select group of women the question of how attending the event has enriched their lives. Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing their answers and insights with you. Here is what Meg Wilson had to say.
Attending the She Leads Conference was an enriching experience, and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity afforded by the scholarship. As a young leader working in the arts sector, the scholarship did more than just open a door to a revelatory and inspiring event. It provided an added, gentle reinforcement that I am worth investing in, and that I have an important role to play in my sector.
Throughout the day I found myself aware of and reflecting on how deeply imbued my social conditioning was. Before the conference even began, I was stressing and preparing ways to make myself smaller: from the type of bag I brought, to which jacket I wore and how I would sit. As a plus-size woman, who has constantly been told she was too much, too loud, my natural response going to new events is to try and make myself smaller, lesser and more ‘palatable’.
These notions of needing to be smaller and invisible were challenged by the She Leads experience even before the official proceedings. With VIPs being seated at the front of the conference space, I was made to get comfortable with being visible. After lunch at the Leading Inclusively and Authentically seminar led by Frances Crimmins, CEO of YWCA, I realised I had been introducing myself throughout the conference without acknowledging my title—something I had always felt deep ‘imposter syndrome’ about. The realisation I had been unconsciously denying my power for the majority of the day floored me and reiterated how much I needed to be immersed with and engaged with fierce, empowered feminists.
Frances Crimmins reflected on why it is so common for women to experience ‘imposter syndrome’ caused by the lack of recognition and representation of women in leadership positions. This reassured me that these feelings hadn’t stemmed from lack of self-belief, but rather from the patriarchal work structure and societal expectations of women. The She Leads Conference gave me the validation and reassurance that feminist leaders are the way forward, and to embrace and encourage the differences we bring to leadership roles.
The She Leads Conference enriched my life by providing the important reminder to constantly back myself, believe in my leadership style, and accept that discomfort is okay, and that change is uncomfortable. Throughout the day I remembered keynote speaker Dr Mehreen Faruqi challenging us to “feel the fear and do it anyway.” These words stayed in mind and reminded me that I must own and claim my power, and to surround myself with people who lift me up and accept all of me, and allow me to take up space.
Inevitably, the confidence I have gained through She Leads is not restricted to my ‘professional sphere’. It is already influencing how I hold my space and embrace my capacity for influence in all facets of life. In this way, the impact of my one-day conference experience will reach much further, as I continue to advocate for women’s voices.
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